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The Upside of Negative Emotions


Presentation6.pptUpside of negative emotionsAdmit it!! You try to escape, or avoid negative emotions as soon as you experience any of these, right? It is no surprise. We’re programmed to do that one way or another. It’s painful to feel depressed, ashamed, anxious, guilty, and the host of other negative emotions. To many, these emotions convey weakness. We gravitate more towards positive emotions like joy, optimism, excitement, confidence, and other emotions that put us in a more upbeat mode. And we’re not to blame as these kinds of emotions don’t only feel good; they’re good for us. They propel us to achieve better results and have better life experiences, in general, all culminating in a more satisfying sense of well-being.

For years I trained myself to shift my negative states to more positive ones in attempts to practice and hone my emotional intelligence. I help my clients do the same, but only after exploring what these negative emotions are trying to tell them. While it is true that many people present to a professional needing relief after experiencing intense one or more negative emotion, little do they know that these negative emotions were – in the beginning – their allies. That same experience they complain from is actually directing them to grow somehow, to be different, to take action, or to understand what is going on. I must emphasize, here, that most negative emotions in their mild form have their upside. Taken to the extreme, they end up in the person being in what may seems like a quagmire of relentless agony.  What I will brief, next, is mainly based on scientific research.

Take, for instance, stress. We’re often warned that stress is the enemy. In its extreme, I won’t deny that it is highly correlated with a host of physical and psychological problems. What many don’t know, though, is that moderate stress is actually good for you. It builds you up with arousal to rise to the challenge, unleashes your creativity, gives your life meaning, and strengthens your psychobiological resilience. Think of “Post Traumatic Growth” which people experience after a stressful experience. Not only do people report that such times stretch their coping muscles, it also changes them to the better in ways they never considered before. They start viewing life matters in a totally new perspective.

Anxiety, too, has its upside. If it weren’t for anxious people forecasting a problematic future in some ways, many discoveries wouldn’t have been brought to life. Anxious people are important for the human race. They care enough, too, not to engage in risky behavior because they can foretell negative consequences. They are, also, appreciated more by their friends and acquaintances because they are more considerate than others. Some anxiety provides you with enough bodily arousal to manage important tasks (e.g. a presentation, or an exam). Without such alertness, perhaps things are taken lightly and performance remains below desired standards. Anxiety can equip you with plan “A”, “B”, “C”, etc… all part of being a bit pessimistic in case thing go wrong, so you’re often more ready than an optimistic anxiety-free person. It is true, though, that sometimes anxiety can be too intense and chronic; thus, hampers both wellbeing and daily functioning.

Even depression is frowned on, when research suggests that mood dips enhance cognitive functioning. Rumination is a way to solve problems and dig deep for answers. People become more detail oriented in such states and don’t miss out on information like happier counterparts would. If you have a project you’d like to undertake, consult with a depressed friend on their opinion. They’d surely help you uncover everything that could go wrong with it. Besides, low mood helps you communicate your feelings better (you’ve thought about things like a million times already and things are clearer by the time you open up).

What about anger? That emotion gives you power and can be used as a strategy to get what you want. In most instances, anger doesn’t escalate to aggression (so that’s good). It directs to problem solving and provides a lot of insight on important matters. Unexpressed anger, turns inward and leads to depression and other health-related issues. Anger masks a host of other negative emotions and tells you which of your values are being violated. When you express anger, you’d be giving the relationship with the other person more guidelines on what is possible and what is not. Beware of anger becoming a communication pattern and a personality style, as then it would convey only lack of control over ones’ responses.

Guilt plays a beautiful function too. It makes you rectify or make amends when you do others wrong. It’s your moral compass especially for conscientious folks. Consider those who commit felonies without any guilt. If guilt was not there to warn the culprit, bad deeds would continue. Can you imagine, then, the kind of world we’d be living in? When you feel guilty, you’re keeping your morals in check alright. Sometimes guilt hovers unnecessarily over one’s psyche and it is totally unwarranted, so we need to make a distinction here on when it is truly valid.

Remorse, similarly happens “after the fact” and makes you a wiser person for similar situations (which may never come), but at least, you can offer others sound advice based on first hand experiences. Regret helps you mature into becoming a wiser person who’s more careful and slower in important decision making; and who takes into account prior life lessons. When you ask yourself “what can I learn here?”, you’re making good use of remorse.

When we consider jealousy, what a motivator this emotion is to be a better version of yourself despite its negative connotation. Jealousy of others who are inspiring raises the bar for you to work harder. It is admiration that makes some people strive to reach similar levels for things that they value. Even moderate romantic jealousy tells the other person they’re important. When couples don’t experience jealousy, sometimes it is not interpreted as trusting too much, but, rather, as having no basis for caring at all….

The list can go on and on for the upside of other negative emotions. They’re important to make the human experience more whole. The light is appreciated more after the darkness. The same goes for positive and negative emotions. The trick is to make sure the experience remains in the milder zone and never to allow it to become chronic or too intense. This can be done through attempts at regulating one’s emotions and interrupting them from escalating. In the end, sadness brings you peace; fear brings you confidence; anger brings you power; confusion brings you clarity; guilt makes you grow; and regret makes you wiser. Aren’t we better off befriending what we resist?

Your Personal Coach

Dania

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Time For Your “Mind Gym” – Would You Rather Suffer, Or Just Be Pained?


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My earlier writings were about enhancing well-being, about facing challenges, about thriving not just surviving. Today, I feel I am addressing mere basics of surviving the insecurities surrounding living in Beirut (the new hub of random theft of lives).

Two consecutive car explosions in less than a week’s time took place ending so many precious lives at a time when we were to celebrate the beginning of a new year. Some of my closest friends lost their child (Mohammad Al Shaar) leaving them devastated, pained, & badly shaken…

Any one of us could have suffered the same fate…. The life of any other one we love could have been stolen just the same. Most of us, back here, feel the danger. Most of us feel the potential loss. Our survival with those we love is threatened at every second of the day….

As I empathize with the family of those deceased at both times, and as I recall my own earlier losses, one major blessing comes to mind. We are lucky that the intensity of all negative emotions (e.g. sadness, pain, anger,….), with time, wanes. Feelings don’t stay the same…

It’s been said that “time heals”. What it actually heals is the adverse emotions we feel. Think back of a time you went through a lot of distress. It could be months back or years. Unless you still suffer a major trauma, normally, you’ll notice that it doesn’t hurt as much & perhaps those negative emotions have disappeared.

What comes to mind now, also, are the stages that the terminally ill go through when facing imminent death. These are summarized by the acronym “DABDA”: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance. It is this last stage that brings again peace. What we resist persists; what we embrace gradually dissolves.

So how is this relevant to those insecure feelings that hover all over our lives during current times? It’s true we’re threatened. It’s true we could be terrified, angry, sad, pained, or depressed, but we’ll only bend; never break…. Our feelings will eventually change when we distract… So,

“Change the equation:

Pain + accepting = pain;

Pain + resisting = Suffering.

Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional.” ~ 3Ds

No matter what happens. No matter what we lose. No matter what we face. We can finally choose to resume somewhat normal living despite the pain by remaining engaged. The alternative is to torment ourselves by staying locked in the vicious cycle of negative feelings & resist the idea that things happened.

I’ve seen so many people use their distress to ignite their thriving despite all insecurities. I’ve, also, seen pained people endlessly suffering.

What will be your choice in whatever you face?

Which equation with whatever feeling you have will you choose?

Your Personal Coach

  Dania

Time For Your Mind Gym – What Scares You?


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There are things that we all detest having; go great lengths to avoid facing; do our best to escape their encounter at every chance. These could be good for us, or bad.

I’m interested today in those unshared distressing ones that scare you. They either haunt you & you can’t keep them out of your mind, or you do your best shove them away somewhere behind.

Are you anywhere on the two poles of this continuum? If you obsess about these, you’re probably drained. And if you’re disregarding these, you’re in another way pained.

In both cases, you’re mostly anxious & scared. There’s no way out but to face these instead of letting it drag. If you want to get it over with, this cannot be spared.

“What we avoid, escape, or deny does not make it invisible. Chasing it down will eventually be that awaited miracle.” ~ 3Ds

Get off that seesaw; disrupt its presence; get down to its essence; fight it with all weapons…. In brief, start a well-planned chaos…

You wouldn’t want to remain at the mercy of its omnipotence & you’re certainly liberated once you remove the power it threatens….

Ughgh .. that feeling of being controlled! Come’on, precious, let’s be bold!! Did I just hear a lion’s “roar”?

Shiver me timbers… You give me goose bumps 🙂

Your Personal Coach

Dania

Time For Your “Mind Gym” – What Are You Hiding?


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Yes, you’re hiding something! & you know what? That’s okay. We all have private things (thoughts, stories, ideas, …) that we wouldn’t want to share. They could be dream-like nice fantasies; & they could be distressing memories, facts, or wounds that ignite your negative emotions when unleashed.

You may not be interested in playing “hide & seek” with what you hide. In fact, you may not want to seek to find what you’re hiding ever… That’s why you hide it to start with. But you know what? Whatever it is that you’re hiding comes to seek you every so often…. it remains there….

You can shove things under your memory carpet as you please. You can lock the doors to their accompanying emotions & throw the keys. And you can attempt to bury in the hollow their negative effects all you want to, but whatever you do, they’ll always find you & tease ….

They manifest themselves in multiple ways you don’t approve of, & seep out without your permission in no transient craze. It all stays; resulting in emotional eating, sleeping problem, and/or a bad habit that stays for long days…..

I often thought: “There are two types of wounds: Open wounds & closed ones. In human psyche, no closed wound is ever sealed tight enough.” ~ 3Ds

Some grow like a cyst causing so much pain. You leave it on its own hoping it heals. You put a plaster on it. You cover it up. You hide it. And it works sometimes to drain it out when it’s ready & ripe.

Still other cysts, & despite all attempts, just won’t recover. No attempt to hide & repair succeeds; & it all leaves you impaired with the manifestations compounding until you get scared.

Yes, open it up & dig for the roots. Get everything out & then slowly heal. What gets you cured is a surgical intervention. It may be unpleasant for a while, but is worth your intention….

It’s true you’ll get scarred, but aren’t we all… by far?

Can I tempt you to seek what you hide now? Come out, come out wherever you aaaaare…

Would you give your secret to just a trusted few? They’ll help you do the self-soothing later…

On your “Team” always: Your Personal Coach

          Dania

Am I Having the Worst Feeling or What?


In my line of practice, I usually work on transforming feelings of distress to those of empowerment. My clients come with different baggage, problems, and challenges. They all, however, share one commonality: A perception that they’re experiencing the “worst feeling” of all times. And it’s true. It’s all relevant to one’s character or situation. As our dialogue proceeds, and as they describe those “worst feelings”, I find myself oscillating between acknowledging how difficult these are on one hand, and aiming at alleviating their pain, on another. Respecting their decision to confide and share their deepest emotions always, my mind’s eye reaches out for the “greener side” of their life landscape. I need to help them shift their perception as they process all their negative emotions.

 As I listen to their experiences, my mind speaks before I can think; yells if I may. Sometimes my reasoning slips out loud in an instant. At other times, I direct our dialogue to support them reach more helpful conclusion. Here are some scenarios they voice out as “worst feelings”; and how my automatic “hunt” goes like for a more empowering stance to alleviate their predicaments every time: 

–          I’m having that worst “feeling of being all alone; I don’t have any good company!”

My mind yells: “Yes, honey, being alone is a terrible feeling; solitude can be bliss, if you think about it. Some people are yearning to be left alone. Do their own thing. No responsibilities attached to anyone else; no one telling them what to do; no one holding them from using their full potentials. If you can’t enjoy your own company, how do you expect anyone to enjoy yours? How can you better use your time to self-entertain and be happy with the only person you’re forever stuck with: YOU?”

–          I’m having the worst ”feeling of being all alone even in the company of others”

My mind yells: “Aha!! Here’s someone who is on a different wavelength from those all around. That’s the perfect chance to check for their uniqueness. I bet they’re the “deeper” type.  Let me tell you this gorgeous: You may just be affiliating with the wrong crowd. Where can you find your type? Let’s check how you’re like and examine your options. Maybe you need to go on a “search” for those of your kind…. Expand your “network” is your next step ….

–          I’m having that worst “feeling of having no choice!”

My mind yells: “Are you serious, sugar? You always have a choice; what you actually “do” may be different. You daily choose what to eat, dress like, or do, … Choosing “not to do” remains a choice. And if you’re driven into a situation by force, the way you react to it remains your choice. Perhaps it’s just that your choice in that specific situation has difficult repercussions. You can deal with it if you’re really determined, don’t you now? Just don’t generalize feeling powerless to all else in your life. Keep choosing to have the right attitude at all times.”

–          I’m having that worst “feeling of having been stabbed in the back!!”

My mind yells: “oh sweetheart, this is how you learn who’s friend and who’s foe. You’ll find those people who’ll love you and support you just as you will find those whose whole life purpose may be that of bringing you down. Give a listening ear to your internal detectors. You knew it all along; you just weren’t paying attention. Learn from it and move on….”

–          I’m having this worst “feeling of being changed into a person I’m not”

My mind yells: “oh my, oh my…. Why would you easily allow that angel? Where’s your strength of character? Right, it’s not that solid…. Perhaps we need to toughen that base as a start. You can’t possibly be comfortable living in your own skin if you let others define who you really are. It would never be your core, would it?”

–          I’m having this worst “feeling of being so incomplete, so not up to the expectations, so imperfect…”

My mind yells: “Good God, how I wished we could all be complete at some point during our life-time. Engage in downward comparison, precious. That old adage: “things could be worse” comes in quite handy in this case. Examine those less fortunate. You’re probably comparing yourself with those who you think have it all. You don’t truly know what they’re struggling with in their lives, minds, or hearts. They may just be similarly striving for perfection; and are in fact dealing with their own @#/!#@. Perfection is too far-fetched, dear, but at least it keeps us busy working on it.”

–          I’m having the worst “feeling of having lost a dear one in my life”

My heart sinks…..

My mind stops yelling….

I empathize….

I become all heart……..

Could this be the worst feeling of all, I wonder? They’ll have to form an alliance with “time”…. I’ll be their spiritual crutches …… then… I’ll be watching them grow…..

Snap Out Of It: Dissociate. Here Is The “How”


Disappointment, discouragement, hopelessness, helplessness, or sadness are but few of the negative states that can put us in a depressed mood. The reasons vary; and when horrific things happen, negative emotions become paralleled with foggy thinking. We may become imprisoned by a chain of negative thinking until our emotions change to the better. Great…., but how do our feelings change? Would you wait for them to change on their own, or rely on external factors to make it happen? What if that doesn’t take place soon enough? How about you play a more active role instead of waiting? Consider the options you have when you find yourself in a depressed mood. You have at least 3:

  1. Stay in your negative state, beat yourself up with further distressing thoughts, and worsen your mood further.
  2. Kick away those negative feelings directly and bounce back to an opposite state as if nothing happened (more like denying yourself any experience of negative feelings).
  3. Allow yourself to stay there a bit just to process what triggered your bad mood; then, change state and focus on finding solutions.

 

It goes without saying that the nature and the magnitude of the trigger can place you somewhere on that continuum at first; nonetheless, you have a choice to move out, away, or into healthier responding. But which of the above three options do you think is considered “healthier responding”? You deserve to live your life fully, so why restrict yourself to negative states? Hence, the first option is by no means the best choice. One of the beauties of being human is that you have feelings; and to deny yourself getting in touch with your feelings only deprives you of your humanity and gets you in more complicated emotional problems. Hence, denying yourself the variety of emotional experiences is, similarly, unwise. The second option, therefore, is ruled out. This leaves you with option three. Do I hear you say: “Easier said than done!” or “you don’t know what you’re talking about; it’s too difficult to snap out of it”? Let me suggest a tool I often use in therapy and coaching. It’s called “Dissociation”. Many use it intuitively, and it has widespread other uses besides changing states.

 

Sit in a quiet comfortable place in solitary. Start a mental scan of the events that precipitated your bad mood. If you’re unable to identify a specific event for your low mood, just examine how the previous hours went by. You’ll be surprised as to how easily the main cause emerges.

 

Assess: Start processing your feelings (processing here means identifying and labeling your feelings). Delve behind the feelings for reasons; analyze and dissect the situation into its main components. Your thoughts about it will feed into your feeling further down, so just allow yourself, then, to be fully associated with your negative state (i.e. feel, visualize, and hear the external and internal dialogues).

 

Dissociate: When you’re through this examination, physically stand up and face the place you were sitting in. It may seem bizarre the first time, but you’re alone (hopefully) and no one will wonder what in the world you’re doing (keep playing the game of dissociation). Visualize yourself sitting in that seat (make a mental picture of how you were sitting exactly – the other you). Imagine that the one standing, now, is your best friend (i.e. the best friend of the one sitting). Being your best friend now, what would you objectively advise the person in front of you to think feel, and do? Narrate the counter arguments of the situation, draw attention to the bigger picture, list the empowering possibilities, and reignite that person into a better mood.

 

Associate: Bring in several memories of times that you felt totally happy, confident, motivated, or any other positive state. Associate yourself with those good feelings every time by mentally visualizing each of those incidents, seeing all the details, hearing all the sounds, and re-living those feelings that dominated then. Let the picture become brighter, the sounds become louder, and allow those feelings to grow each time. Finally, get back into the body of the person sitting in that place (both mentally and physically). You still carry those positive vibes, so just permit them some time to take over that prior state as if you were receiving the new empowering vibes now.

 

When you do this, you will realize how much our thoughts affect our internal states. It is very easy to give in to negative thinking, but these exacerbate our negative emotions. If you want to snap out of it, just allow yourself some time to process what happened then change your thoughts. Changing your thoughts guarantees a change of state. Now you know how you can do that. Dissociate, but follow that with associating into good memories. Says who you cannot be the nautical wheeler of navigating your own ship of emotions?..….

The #1 Stress Buster: Deep Breathing


In my last post, I listed the top 10 “Stress Busters” used usually to cope with experienced stress. They can, also, be utilized to prevent stress escalation. To me, the number one “Stress Buster” is the “Deep Breathing” technique. I advocate it, all the time, because it is easy to implement and quick to take effect. Not only do we use it to alleviate stress, we use it to control anger and anxieties when these kick in. It is very effective if used in anticipation of fear-provoking situations (e.g. public speaking, fear of flying, etc…). Deep Breathing is usually used in meditation; and as the first stage to get into trance in hypnosis. There is no doubt about the relaxing effects it has on both body and mind. Fretting, fuming, and impulsive reactions are rendered, simply, impossible.

 To be effective, however, it requires some “know how”; and just a little time to master it. You need to forget the chest breathing you’re used to and be focused on more abdominal breathing. Here is how the process goes:

 1. Sit in a comfortable position and have the intention to relax yourself.

2. Start by taking a very deep slow breath. Inhale through your nose to the count of 4 until your abdomen rises.

 3. Hold that breath inside to the count of 2. Tell yourself: “I’m relaxing. I feel relaxed.”

 4. Exhale through open lips to the count of 8 feeling your abdomen go back to its normal position.

 5. Hold for a count of 4.

 6. Notice your body relaxing.

7. Repeat steps 2 to 6 at least 10 times.

You can do this simple exercise many times during the day, or whenever you face a stressful situation. It works wonders in speedily calming you down. I was suggesting this technique to a client of mine who had to deal with a lot of anxieties. As soon as I was done explaining the process, she protested by telling me: “You mean I have to breathe every time I feel anxious?” I was surprised and told her: “You’re breathing anyway and all the time to just survive. The difference, now, is you’ll be doing it more slowly and consciously….”  🙂

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